Thomas Sowell

Invincible Ignorance

By Thomas Sowell - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Must every tragic mass shooting bring out the shrill ignorance of “gun control” advocates?

The key fallacy of so-called gun control laws is that such laws do not in fact control guns. They simply disarm law-abiding citizens, while people bent on violence find firearms readily available.

If gun control zealots had any respect for facts, they would have discovered this long ago, because there have been too many factual studies over the years to leave any serious doubt about gun control laws being not merely futile but counterproductive.

Places and times with the strongest gun control laws have often been places and times with high murder rates. Washington, D.C., is a classic example, but just one among many.

When it comes to the rate of gun ownership, that is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but the murder rate is higher in urban areas. The rate of gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, but the murder rate is higher among blacks. For the country as a whole, hand gun ownership doubled in the late 20th century, while the murder rate went down.

The few counter-examples offered by gun control zealots do not stand up under scrutiny. Perhaps their strongest talking point is that Britain has stronger gun control laws than the United States and lower murder rates.

But, if you look back through history, you will find that Britain has had a lower murder rate than the United States for more than two centuries— and, for most of that time, the British had no more stringent gun control laws than the United States. Indeed, neither country had stringent gun control for most of that time.

In the middle of the 20th century, you could buy a shotgun in London with no questions asked. New York, which at that time had had the stringent Sullivan Law restricting gun ownership since 1911, still had several times the gun murder rate of London, as well as several times the London murder rate with other weapons.

Neither guns nor gun control was not the reason for the difference in murder rates. People were the difference.

Yet many of the most zealous advocates of gun control laws, on both sides of the Atlantic, have also been advocates of leniency toward criminals.

In Britain, such people have been so successful that legal gun ownership has been reduced almost to the vanishing point, while even most convicted felons in Britain are not put behind bars. The crime rate, including the rate of crimes committed with guns, is far higher in Britain now than it was back in the days when there were few restrictions on Britons buying firearms.

In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London but, by the 1990s— after decades of ever tightening gun ownership restrictions— there were more than a hundred times as many armed robberies.

Gun control zealots’ choice of Britain for comparison with the United States has been wholly tendentious, not only because it ignored the history of the two countries, but also because it ignored other countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States, such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico. All of these countries have higher murder rates than the United States.

You could compare other sets of countries and get similar results. Gun ownership has been three times as high in Switzerland as in Germany, but the Swiss have had lower murder rates. Other countries with high rates of gun ownership and low murder rates include Israel, New Zealand, and Finland.

Guns are not the problem. People are the problem— including people who are determined to push gun control laws, either in ignorance of the facts or in defiance of the facts.

There is innocent ignorance and there is invincible, dogmatic and self-righteous ignorance. Every tragic mass shooting seems to bring out examples of both among gun control advocates.

Some years back, there was a professor whose advocacy of gun control led him to produce a “study” that became so discredited that he resigned from his university. This column predicted at the time that this discredited study would continue to be cited by gun control advocates. But I had no idea that this would happen the very next week in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.


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37 Responses to “Invincible Ignorance”

  1. john bear says:

    It is not, nor has it ever been about gun control — it is about people control. It is far easier to take guns away from law abiding citizens than it is to take guns away from criminals. In many cities of this country people live behind locked doors and bars in their own homes for fear of the criminal element that is free to roam. By allowing this to happen the State has control of the populace. While, at the same time, screaming for gun control as a ploy to make pols feel good.

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  2. Lawrence Ekdahl, says:

    I know that brain washed America won't recognize the truth that we have to look back at history. We need to chuck all this psycho stuff and begin to teach the ten commandments again, properly disciplin our children, and really punish chriminals swiftly. I fear it is to late already. They will prbably disarm america and then the chriminals they have created in school indoctrination will be free to kill anyone.

    • GrayCat says:

      The solution is to abandon government/the state.

      Nowhere in Scripture is it commanded that the Commandments be taught in government schools by government.

      More "moral laws" is not the answer; if they were, we'd already be in heaven.

  3. blh557 says:

    If gun control worked it would have worked in Newtown, CT.

    CT has the top rating from the Brady Bunch, AR-style rifles (they are NOT assault weapons) are illegal, there are stringent requirements for concealed carry, the murderer of Sandy Pt (please, don't use his name) was denied a gun, he was denied access to the school the day before… and yet he was able to obtain access by theft and kill the UNARMED teachers and innocents before turning the gun on himself after hearing the police sirens.

    Thank God for the sirens or more innocents might have been taken. Should we blame the killings on sirens that were not loud enough? Should there be a law in place banning quiet sirens?

    Let's see; there are already stringent laws for murder… oops, he broke those… already laws against having guns in a "gun-free zone"… oops, there went that one… already laws against carrying concealed weapons without a permit… gosh, I guess those laws weren't enough.

    Despite what the low-IQ media keeps telling their lo-IQ audience, laws will not stop murderers bent on breaking the one law they are bound and determined to break; killing those they wish to kill.

    Only protection will protect us; and no that was not a misstatement. If we cannot protect ourselves, having more or more stringent laws will not do it. Only law-abiding people will abide by laws. Otherwise "gun-free zones" wouldn't turn in to shooting galleries.

    • reunion says:

      so, protect yourself.

      a slave is one who waits for someone to come & free him. ~ ezra pound

      would also be sensible to not be one others protect themselves against….

  4. al sowins says:

    The deterrent to any criminal activity is morality. When a nation, province, locale ceases to contain a population which voluntarily observes, generally but imperfectly, the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", the crime rate rises dramatically and many innocents suffer. This commandment is found at Mt.7.12, and requires proactive implementation. It is the New Testament application of 2Chron.7.14, where God's protections are promised to His people; those called by His name; not the world in general. And the promise is conditioned on a repentant return to Dt.6.4-5 and Lev.19.18; the Old Testament equivalent of Lk.10.25-28 in the New Testament. A sincere concern and appropriate behavior toward ones neighbors eliminates crime, war and poverty. Unless and until that concern and its practical application are vaunted and impressed into the minds of Americans we will continue to devolve into less and less human beings, and more and more into repulsive animals. Our choice.

    • reunion says:

      good fences make good neighbors. despite frost's maudlin objection.

      be moral yourself. indulge hope in meeting with reciprocals. but have a plan b. and a c. a d would be good, too.

      a fence in the hand is worth more than countless lengths, out there around the perimeter.

    • GrayCat says:

      The real problem is with self-professed Christians who do not know the Bible, who think all they need to know about are the select passages they hear in their pulpits on Sundays.

      God's wrath and vengeance, He says, will begin in His house.

      The rest of the world is not pretending to be anything but worldly. His followers are supposed to be "not of the world, but in it" for the sake of presenting His Word in such a manner that more people are persuaded that being "of" the world is the problem.

      This can't happen as long as His professed followers are selective about which Scriptures they follow, justifying unjust governments as appointed by God, and wars.

      Until those serious about following Him learn what these Scriptures mean: 1 Samuel 8; 2 Chronicles 20; Ezekiel 3, 18, 33; Isaiah 56 – 59; Matthew 4 – 7; Romans 12 – 13; Galatians 5 – 6:1-10, Ephesians 5 – 6, James 2:8-13 and 3:13-18, 1 John and Revelation 19, things will only continue to get worse.

  5. Nightrider says:

    Until gun control advocates are able to explain how taking guns away from 'everybody' including and in particularly law abiding citizens that criminals and people bent on violence
    are prevented also from obtaining guns (black market purchases, theft as in Newtown, etc), their cries ought to be dismissed as simply rhetoric.

  6. Angelo says:

    Let’s start from the beginning. Gun control is a joke and anyone proposing it is a buffoon. Now let me explain why.

    I live in Puerto RIco (which is a territory of the US where practically all US laws apply: we have the DEA, FBI, IRS, DHS, TSA and whatever other three-letter job factory you can imagine). Population of the island is about 4 million, with about 1 million in the San Juan (state capital) Metro Area and the rest in other cities and towns. Concentration is primarily urban.

    Gun control is DRACONIAN within the jurisdiction. If you wish to acquire a weapon for target shooting – and only target shooting – you go through forms, investigations, more forms, mandatory gun club membership, mandatory “training” requirements (even if you qualified as expert in military training and were a firearms instructor), high processing fees, affidavits (which locally can only be obtained from expensive lawyers) local treasury department fees, and so on and so forth, ad nauseam. So to acquire your weapon, you go through the hoops, spend about three months waiting, you’ve paid the gun store to store your weapon while the paperwork is completed (at $30/month), and you’ve spent about $500.00 over and above the cost of the weapon just to have the right to keep and bear arms legally.

    Now, if you are a criminal, the process is much simpler. You go to certain designated points, some near public housing projects, others elsewhere, and you state what you want. The choices are open. revolvers, pistols, rifles (semi-auto and auto), machine guns (from Israeli UZIs to American Thomsons), silencers, ammo of diverse types and specifications.. you name it. You then get what you want upon payment in cash (of course) and you walk away with your illegal weapon.

    The system is obviously designed to keep weapons away from the honest and guarantee their access by criminals. Therefore, the island has one of the highest crime rates in the Hemisphere. The murder rate locally is about 5 or 6 times the murder rate of the highest cities in the US – New Orleans and New York being likely candidates. On an average week-end, you can count on 10-15 murders (although we have had week-ends with over 18). For the most part, these murders are crime related, although you’ll always find a crime of passion thrown in here or there. And I’m not being flippant.. it’s just that after the constant bombardment of crime, it almost becomes part of the environment.

    I have seen first hand the utter failure of “gun control”. Fools propose it. Idiots support it. And criminals overwhelmingly vote for it. It makes their jobs easier. It makes their targets much more vulnerable. And it decreases their job risks immensely. If anyone wants to see the “effectiveness” of gun control first hand, take a week-end and go down to PR… but watch out for yourself. Don’t go out at night (the rate of innocent bystander killings is pretty high too, specially when machine guns are used) and be VERY careful of where you go in the daytime. Good luck.

  7. Smucko says:

    When ex-Beatle George Harrison was stabbed by an intruder in his London home, his wife was hailed a heroine for knocking out the attacker with a lamp. If you want to use a lamp to defend yourself, that's fine, but a gun makes a better equalizer.
    As Robert Ringer pointed out years ago, you have a God-given right to defend yourself from bodily harm from three types of people—
    * the everyday mugger or intruder;
    * the roving mob in the street;
    * your own government.
    Do NOT give away that right lightly! We have already given up too much of our freedom for the sake of "If it just saves one child's life…….". People die everyday from the result of someone's Free Will. Accept that premise, head it off when you can, convict the wrong-doer when appropriate, cherish the good memories, and move on with your life. Always be ready to defend yourself and others, and be ready to meet your Maker when He calls you home.

  8. reunion says:

    a reference to a precedent – "legality' – is a reference to whimsical arbitrariness. its not a proof. not an axiom. not truth. its merely something you've gotten used to and unthinkingly analogize from.

    i learned to drive when i was 12. four years before "legality" "permitted" me the "privilege" of operating a vehicle. and i learned to shoot beginning at age 6.

    it is incorrect, trespass, for you to externalize the costs of your feelings. pay your own way (grow up, become an individual, and an adult). until then, maybe you should avoid AK, AZ & VT. concealed carry w/o permit is "legal" there.

  9. Mike Rael says:

    From a political standpoint, I don't think you can just call for the end to gun control. Instead, say that you intend to control guns the same way usage of the auto is controlled: by the DMV and highway patrol.
    Make it extremely easy for everyone interested in doing so to obtain a guard card inexpensively, to learn how to use an armed weapon (at a government approved shooting range or a government-approved private range), and then to become armed guards inexpensively without actually working for a security company to become an armed guard.
    Say that being an armed guard is a privilege, not a right–a privilege that can be revoked for cause.
    Make it clear that such armed guards have to carry their guns in holsters in plain sight. Nothing concealed.
    Even though I'm for allowing anyone to have a gun who has not been guilty of a felony involving use of a gun, if the procedure above is followed, I admit I'd feel tons safer while simply walking around the streets.
    Any other thoughts about this?

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  10. GrayCat says:

    If laws, legislation, and public opinion could prevent evil, we’d already be living in heaven.

    We aren’t, because laws, legislation, and public opinion cannot prevent evil, but have the effect of simply forcing it out in the open, where it then takes over.

    As long as people believe their “elected” criminal masters have the answers, we will continue to live in an ever-worsening hell.

    Only mutually adopting the non-aggression principle, self-government and peaceful trade, while maintaining sensible self-defense can deliver us from this government-created miasma.

    Since there is no way to predict or prevent the existence of evil among us in this life, especially through government/the state, that is the only rational course to take.

    • reunion says:

      you point to a major disconnect, a splintered fracture, a “sybil offense”.

      offensive violence suffuses this country. it begins at the "top", & collects emulators as gravity rolls it downhill. and most of the mass accumulates under "color of law".

      sentimental mush & grief counselors by the gross for 20 kids (& 6 "adults") at sandy hook elementary…"the supreme court has ruled" for the 54,559,615 "collateral damages" since roe v wade.

      and that's just one category of "legal" offensive violence. there are many more.

      superficially unique snowflakes, "color of law" white, are rolled up into frozen "men" who then profess perplexity & dismay when their frostys are, again & again, revealed to be the work of dung beetles.

      sybil has met the enemy, but she will never recognize her.

      sisyphus rolls his boulder through eternity. sissified insects, by the millions, roll little balls of crap. atlas shrugs, showers, gets clean.

      • GrayCat says:

        Yes, reunion . . . except, I’d reverse the path of the roll from top down to the bottom. I believe it actually defies gravity and rolls from the bottom up.

        What we have couldn’t exist if the vast majority didn’t want it to. Look at those even posting at this site who believe that even more laws, more government, will fix it all.

        • reunion says:

          the founding cabal of conspirators – net basis – in this amerikan chapter of the never ending story, & its posterity, are the "top"…

          but here's how we may agree: scum, & dung beetle raw material – does float to the top, & then sprinkles degradation downward from whence it came, even as it relentlessly seeks to expand the low places, & to fill those sumps with more brackish liquid…..

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